Friday, April 24, 2015

Miss Abigail's First Very Special Dance

Our church sponsors a special spring prom and Miss Abigail was excited to be able to go this year for the first time. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the hand-me-down dress was very plain and needed some alteration in the bodice. I did the structural alterations, but Abby wanted to do the embellishing. She was going for a kind of "Regency" look. Her favorite literature character is Miss Emma Woodhouse. I think she created that look exactly with the empire sash, flat dancing slippers and the matching silver headband. Her beautiful smile adds just the right touch, don't you think? She is such a sweetheart with her handsome escort.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Crochet Edged Baby Blankets

So, I've been to Idaho and had a nice long visit with my mom. Of course, while I was there I made several visits to my very favorite craft store (this post explains why I would) and found a number of treasures for Miss Abigail's hope chest. My mom is elderly now and so we tend to just sit and visit. This gives me a wonderful opportunity to do handwork. These pretty two-layer flannel receiving blankets are sold in Porter's as a kit project. The pieces are cut and basted and then machine hemstitched around the raw edge. Machine hemstitching creates beautiful, evenly-spaced holes all along the edge of the blanket, which is perfect for crochet.

Hemstitching was originally a hand sewing technique. Actually, it still is. However, in 1893, a hemstitching machine was developed to mimic this hand-stitching. The most common hemstitching machines had a double needle and double bobbins with a sharp piercer that made holes in the fabric and the two separate needles that sewed the hole open. The hemstitching machines were produced commercially during the early 1900's and were very popular with home sewers in the 1930's and 40's. There are still some hemstitching machines being manufactured but they now cost thousands of dollars. Lucky you if someone in your family owns an antique machine. They are very sturdy and many are still in use. I don't know who sews the hemstitch on these blankets for the store, but I do know they are produced locally. Since I can't find them anywhere else, I always try to get one when I go to Idaho.

There are lots of different designs and patterns for the edging. I'm going to show you how I made the edging for these blankets. The pattern was on a free flyer hanging near the kits and thread. The pattern is called "Xs and Os" and naturally, I had to change it because I liked a half-double crochet stitch better than a single. For this blue blanket, I used DMC Cebelia thread, size 10, with a size 7 steel crochet hook. The second picture shows a close up of the hemstitched edge.

Xs and Os Crochet Edging (US stitches) 

In any hole, cast on with a single crochet. *Skip one hole, half-double crochet in the next hole, chain 3, half-double crochet into the skipped hole. Repeat from *. End with a single crochet in the beginning hole. Fasten off.

As the pattern directs, begin in any hole with a single crochet. Skip the next hole and then make a half-double crochet in the following hole. (Because I wasn't taking pictures of my crocheting in Idaho, this picture shows a continuation of the pattern already begun. Sorry.) Chain three.

Come back and make a half-double crochet in the previously skipped hole. The chain three makes a pretty O and the half-doubles create the X. Just continue the pattern all the way around.

The blue/green blanket was 36-inches square. This pretty purple/green blanket kit is 45-inches square and had a burp cloth included as well. I tried a shiny nylon variegated thread for this blanket, but think I prefer the cotton DMC. Same size thread and hook and the blue.

Short of taking a trip to Rexburg, Idaho, I can't tell you where to find these blankets. There are some hemstitching businesses online. I Googled hemstitched baby blankets, and saw a number of choices. When I do edges without the benefit of hemstitching, I just use the embroidery awl technique that I posted about here. You can try using a single wing needle on your regular zig-zag sewing machine. Several heritage clothing sites have directions or tutorials for this technique, or check You tube for this video that explains how. The wing needle produces holes that can be closer together than the machine hemstitching. Perhaps you can adjust the stitch length or, depending on the crochet pattern you may need to make adjustments to the pattern. For instance, use a single-crochet for the Xs and Os pattern instead of the half-double crochet, or skip more than one hole.

Although I am still working on the Pink and Brown kitchen set, for some reason, babies are on my mind. I'm glad to have these blankets finished for the hope chest.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Peek Inside: Sewing Instruction Book

I think a sewing instruction book is a must for Miss Abigail's hope chest. Have any of my older readers noticed how the sewing patterns of today are really quite short on instructions? The pattern companies must assume that those using their patterns already have quite a lot of experience with sewing. Even those designed for beginners! Although these are somewhat better, I find all patterns are really lacking when it comes to giving a true picture of the necessary steps of the sewing process.

This lack became apparent to me as I taught Miss Abigail to sew. I quite clearly remember learning to sew. I watched my mother, first of all. I learned some basic techniques from my home-ec classes in Junior High. Mostly I sewed at home, by myself, and gained hands-on experience by following the instruction sheet included with the pattern. Even in home-ec class, we followed the pattern instructions and then received help from the teacher (or mom) only as we ran into problems or had questions. Today I find myself constantly having to demonstrate or explain additional steps to Abigail.

I really like this Singer sewing instruction book. The explanations are clear and complete. The pictures obviously help illustrate the various techniques. It is almost as if this publisher understands what is missing in the pattern sheet and supplies this additional information. What a blessing! Miss Abigail just isn't quite as passionate about sewing and needlework as I am. But she is still a capable sewist and now and then I see the spark in her eye. But until she does a lot more unsupervised sewing, she will need this book to remind her of what those pattern instructions really mean.

This next week Miss Abigail will be altering and embellishing a hand-me-down Prom dress. Wish us luck wih that! If it works well, we'll show pictures.

If you are struggling with your own sewing, it could be you only lack clear instructions. Try this book.

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